What does it mean when an album or song is “remastered”?

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What does it mean when an album or song is “remastered”?

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Mixing and mastering is the stage in audio production where they take all of the individually recorded tracks containing the different instruments and takes, combine them together into one track, and do all of the audio processing needed to make everything sound the best it can – things like adjusting the eq of each part, adding effects like reverbs, and so on.

Remastering is where they redo the mastering process in an attempt to fix any flaws an album has sonically, and adjust the end result to be more suited to modern styles and listening.

When an album is recorded, each piece is recorded separately. A separate “track” is made for the singer and each instrument. The different tracks are then mixed together, and the result of that mix is the master.

Time, taste, and technology changes, however. For example, when the Beach Boys originally recorded “Pet Sounds”, it was mastered to mono. Partially this was because stereo wasn’t very popular yet, and partially it was because Brian Wilson was deaf in one ear and couldn’t hear the difference. When the album was re-released in 1997, a new stereo mix was created from the original tracks, and a new master, or “re master” version was created.

“Mastering” usually means taking a whole song that’s been recorded and making the final track sound the best it possibly can. Remastering is doing that again for a song that’s already come out before. Sometimes modern equipment can help us make a song sound better in ways that old technology wasn’t able to, or sometimes we change things just because more people like a different type of sound now than they used to.

When a song is remastered, it might be made louder, made to have more bass or treble so that different parts of the song stand out more, and compressed to make the difference between the loudest and quietest parts of the song smaller, so that it sounds smoother or more “glued together.” Some people like the remastered versions of songs best because they sound more like something that might be produced today, and some people prefer the older versions.

Remastering a track is taking the original mix done by the mix engineer and doing a new “master,” on it. The point of a master is to get the best quality version of a song for current playback equipment. So when you see say the version of Dark Side of the Moon that was remastered in 2011 the original stereo mix downs have not been changed, but rather the “master copy,” has been improved to sound better on more modern audio systems like your phone and soundbar. In 1973 the master of Dark Side would sound different than the 2011 remaster because the 1973 master was intended for vinyl and tape playback rather than digital streaming.

Mastering is the last step of recording. A mastering engineer’s job is to stop the end listener from having to adjust volume and tone between tracks. So, they make a collection of tracks sound like an album.

They also meet technical requirements of the media the end user will be listening to. With different recording media there are different concerns. For example, with vinyl too much bass will cause the needle to jump the groove and high frequencies need to be amplified to properly cut a groove. There is a standard EQ applied to vinyl to compensate for these issues with the media. When a song meant for vinyl is remastered level and compression is redone from the original recording to take advantage of the new media.

Listen to the different mixes of The Stooges – Raw Power

David Bowie tried his hardest to clean it up but it was a shit recording to begin with. Some people prefer the iggy mix because it sounds a little more raw and punk rock.

[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zFCF4EJ-va8](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zFCF4EJ-va8)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dlnNnkmHV40

I have noticed that in many cases remastered versions have more loudness, but much less dynamic range.

Sound engineer and it doesn’t seem like any answer so far is a true ELI5 so here’s my take:

Mixing a song is making sure all the instruments in that song blend together perfectly. Say you have 8 instruments, you’re mixing them together like ingredients to make a cake batter.

You then send that cake batter to a person who has a really expensive oven and a baker who knows how to use that oven to turn that batter in to the best cake possible.

As time goes on, better and better ovens and better and better bakers who know how to use these fancy ovens pop up due to technology, and better understanding of how the technology works. So though we still have the original recipe for the batter, you can stand to make a remastered version of the cake to sell to people.

Typically the mastering engineer doesn’t have the individual ingredients to the cake batter, just the already mixed batter to work with. But they have some super fancy equipment, tons of experience, and an excellent ear/palette to know how to turn that batter in to a better cake than the original.

Lot of misinformation in this thread. Mastering, whether it’s the first time or a later REmastering, has nothing to do with mixing/remixing.

Recording/Producing a song is like mining a diamond.

Mixing is like cutting a diamond.

Mastering is like polishing a diamond.

“Mastering” is the process of making a finished album ready to be released on specific media. Originally most releases in history were mastered for vinyl records meaning the dynamics (difference between loudest and most quiet parts) and frequency range had to be limited to the dynamics and frequency range a record player can reproduce. (Both are a lot smaller than you might think- carving vinyl is *not* an ideal way to store audio.)
Later CD recordings which provide a wider frequency and dynamic range mostly replaced vinyl requiring different equalizing (frequency filtering) and compression. Many old vinyl recordings were remastered to better fit the new mediums limits. Some of these remasterings -widely depending on quality of original material as well as on effort, money and time put into the remastering process- were pretty good. Far more CD-remasterings, however, were just sent through a bunch of presets boosting the frequencies that were filtered for vinyl and compressing dynamics for maximal percieved loudness. Hence the bad reputation of CD-remastering and the legend of vinyl providing better audio quality or “wamth” than digital media.

Mastering is the process of taking the final mix of the recording, and creating the actual physical copy *all* other copies of the recording will be produced from. There’s a bunch of work that goes into it from simple things like determining the length of silence between tracks and making sure volume levels are consistent, to more complicated wizardy for making the audio sound best on the intended equipment.

What’s done in that process isn’t very important for ELI5 purposes, just that the outcome is the very final version, and everything after that is either a copy of it, or a copy of a copy, or a copy of a copy of a copy or so on.

Historically, the master was done on magnetic tape, and there’s always been physical limitations of the format, and often studios were slow to adopt new technology for that process. So even in the best case, the quality of that master might be a be shaky. It’s also possible the master has been degraded or lost, so all ‘current’ releases are a copy of an archived release 8 track or something, and so you’re listening to a copy of a copy of a copy of a …… which means lower quality. This was particular an issue after CDs came out since they’re far higher quality reproduction and the degradation from many generations of copying can be noticeable.

However studios try not to throw anything out, and even if the master has degraded, it’s entirely possible the final mix, or a copy made before the final master, or in worst case a low generation copy can be found. An example of the last would be a copy of the master sent over seas to be used for production there.

If so, it’s entirely possible to sit down, digitize that, and make a new master copy. You remaster the song. Ideally this means the remastered version will have far better audio quality since it sourced from something close to the original recording and gets to benefit from all the advances in tech. Unfortunately sometimes the mastering engineer can do things that entirely change the character of the recording; many things done today aren’t necessarily better but a change in style or norms (Look up the loudness war).

Of course some times this is just a shitty cash grab. Technically anything you decide to use is the ‘source’ copy and can be a master recording. There have been cases where the remaster is sourced from one of those copies of a copy of a copy of a copy….etc so there’s no real improvement in audio quality. You can do things to clean that up a little, but if you just want to make a buck, they might do something like slap some noise reduction on it, EQ it a little to up the bass, and crank up the volume. This often wrecks the finer details in the sound but people will often perceive something that’s louder with more bass as better in isolation so they’ll convince people to buy a new copy.

Finally you have the absolute lazy option for a remaster: Technically any port to a new medium creates a new master since that becomes the ‘source’ copy for that medium. Sometimes ‘remastered’ literally just means ‘we released it on CD’ and they slap remaster on there as an advertising bit.

I was going to ask this same ELI5 yesterday! And then I found [this](https://youtu.be/MtdyUhfK7EE) video, which does not ELI 5 in a textable way, but instead has an unmixed/mixed/mastered track altogether (side by side in the video). Very cool, and although I am still befuddled as to how one *does* a mastering or remastering, I get what they mean at their essence now.

With the definition of “Mastering” having been changed forever over the last decade, it could mean a lot of things. It could be that the master stereo file was sent through some equalization, or not, and set to a specific level that is used for whatever form of broadcast that it’s headed for. It could be as simple as some shelving or filtering with subtle compression. It could mean that the song was remixed, with each stem (guitar, bass, drums, skin flute) has been mixed again as a totally new presentation of the original recordings. There could be new performances, there could be new settings for effects on original performances. The possibilities are endless, and no two remasters are the same.

Mastering is the process of making a song loud and making it sound good. Modern mastering equipment sounds a lot better and can even repair artifacts from old recordings (like tape warble.) A remastered song is edited with modern equipment to sound better.

Remastered version is a mixed and mastered of a song track using a modern style technique of mixing and mastering. Basically, a remastered song track is just a better sounding version than the old song track version. It’s more loud and clear than the original version of the song track. You can even hear every notes played by every instruments and vocals in the remastered version of the song track.

There are so many misinformation on this thread. Mixing and mastering aren’t really easy to explain to anyone who doesn’t do music production and audio engineering. They’re very complicated process and also the last step you have to do before distributing your song/music to music distributors.

Imagine taking multiple pieces of different colored string and braiding them together.
If you do this with pieces of recorded sound, this is called “mixing”, and it’s how you can have different instruments or voices playing and singing together, even if they were recorded at different times.

Then, imagine that you took that rope of braided string and dipped it all in glitter so every piece all shined in the same way, even though you could still see the different colors coming through. If you do this with recorded pieces of sound mixed together, this is called “mastering.”

later on, if you found some better glitter, you could strip all the old glitter off, and dip the old braided rope of strings into your better glitter. When people take a recording that’s been mastered, remove the old mastering and master the original mixed pieces of recorded sounds with better-sounding tools, this is called “remastering.”

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